16th Jul 2020

What factors impact the financial cost of divorce?

There are a number of issues which will impact on the cost of a divorce. Head of Family Law, Danielle Day takes a look at Cost Orders in Financial Remedy Proceedings and how they are changing.

If my ex doesn’t have a solicitor, will it cost me more?

When one party is unrepresented, it often increases the legal costs of the other spouse who has chosen to instruct a solicitor to deal with matters on their behalf.  Unrepresented spouses (referred to as Litigants in Persons) can sometimes struggle to understand the legal process and be able to put their emotions to one side.

As they do not have that guidance from someone who is impartial and has experience of what a court would consider “fair and reasonable”. This can lead to court proceedings, when it may have been capable of settlement by alternative methods of dispute resolution. We also find that settlement proposals put forward can be unreasonable and so far removed from what a court would order. 

Does my choice of solicitor affect the cost of my divorce?

Unreasonable litigation however does not just happen when one party is unrepresented, it still occurs when both parties have legal representation.  Whether it be a litigious firm that has been instructed or an unreasonable client who is unable to take on board the advice they are receiving.

Up until recently, there were no cost penalties for one party acting unreasonably and unnecessarily raising legal fees. Cost orders in financial proceedings were rare and often only used when one party repeatedly breached court orders on disclosure or in interim applications (interim maintenance). However, that is no longer the case…

Limiting court costs

A spouse may now be at risk of a cost order if it can be shown that one party has refused to negotiate reasonably and responsibility in the proceedings and has therefore raised the other spouses’ legal fees unnecessarily. It will be interesting to see how often this happens in reality and whether more reasonable negotiating will take place in future.

Has COVID-19 had an impact on divorce costs?

Since lockdown, further cost changes have crept into existence from July 2020.

All parties are now under a duty to ensure that not only do we provide the courts with information of legal costs incurred to date at each hearing, but also a projection of future legal costs up to the next stage. The representatives must also sign a statement of truth to confirm that their client has received this information. 

For some time, the legal profession has been under increasing pressure from the Solicitors Regulations Authority to create greater price transparency and provide clear cost information at each stage of case.

 

Danielle Day is head of Berwins' Family Law team. She has been recognised in industry guides Chambers and Partners and Legal500.

Berwins' dedicated and friendly team is here to help. If you have a matter you would like to discuss with Danielle and the team, please get in touch by calling (01423) 509000 or use our contact form online and we will get back to you as soon as possible.


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